EL PASO, Texas — An El Paso woman is accused of kidnapping the baby of a migrant woman who had recently crossed the border and holding him for ransom for several months.
Jenna Leigh Roark, 45, was arrested in September on charges of hostage-taking and aiding and abetting, according to a federal criminal complaint.
According to prosecutors, the FBI on September 26 was contacted by the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida after a Honduran national told police that she had been separated from her infant son since May and was being extorted in exchange for the child's safe return. The woman, referred to as "VICTIM" in the complaint, was living in Florida at the time, prosecutors said.
According to the complaint, the unidentified mother said that she had crossed the U.S-Mexico border in May and approached a man and a woman in an El Paso apartment complex to ask them for directions to the nearest Grey Hound bus station. The two then offered to give the mother a ride, the complaint said.
The migrant woman said that during the ride, Roark, who identified herself as "Jane" to the mother, told the woman that she would be keeping her son. Roark exchanged numbers with the mother, telling her they would stay in contact, according to the complaint.
"Jane would periodically send VICTIM pictures and videos of (her) SON, and VICTIM and (her) SON would speak on the phone two to three times a week," the complaint said.
The complaint does not specify why the mother agreed to leave her child with Roark or any other details about the alleged abduction.
Roark would initially demand $8,000 from the mother, but later dropped the figure down to $5,800, prosecutors said.
Roark had been arrested on September 16 by the Texas Department of Public Safety on a separate human smuggling charge. Roark had stopped at a motel and picked up three undocumented people, the complaint said.
When Roark was arrested, one of her daughters was in the front seat of her car, holding an infant boy whom Roark claimed was her other daughter's son. But when the daughter that Roark claimed was the mother gave authorities conflicting information about the child's identity, the infant was placed in the care of Child Protective Services and an investigation was launched, the complaint said.
That child was later identified by the Honduran woman as her son.
During an interview with Texas DPS, Roark claimed that her husband was in trouble with the Mexican mafia and said that there was a group of 29 migrants that she was supposed to pick up, of which she only picked up four, the complaint alleged. She claimed that the baby had been sent to her by a man in Mexico whom she called Richard, the complaint said.
According to the complaint, Roark told Texas DPS that Richard had kept the child and sent the mother and her other two children to the U.S.
"(The) SON was eventually brought to the United States by an unknown female and ROARK was supposed to care for the child until payment by VICTIM was made," the complaint read.